Rivlin to Haaretz Conference: Military Alone Will Not Keep Israel Safe

Speaking at HaaretzQ conference days after meeting Obama, Israeli president praises Haaretz as 'beacon for freedom of expression.'

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin speaking at HaaretzQ Conference in New York. December 14, 2015.
Erica Gannett for IRL Productions

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin opened the HaaretzQ conference Sunday with a call for renewed diplomatic effort to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict, saying that assuring that “Israel remains strong and safe is not only a military mission” and “we have to find new diplomatic ways, because this is just as important as our safety and security” and “we need to think out of the box” to find a solution.

Rivlin spoke after the sold-out crowd at conference was welcomed by Charlotte Halle, editor of English Haaretz; Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken, the New Israel Fund’s CEO, Daniel Sokatch, and New Israel Fund Board President Talia Sasson.

In the gathering's first keynote address, Rivlin indirectly addressed criticism from the Israeli right for appearing at an event co-sponsored by the New Israel Fund, which, among the many organizations it supports, includes Breaking the Silence, which is critical of the behavior of the Israeli Defense Forces and has a representative appearing on one of the panels at the conference.

Rivlin defended the moral fiber of the Israeli army, stating, “once in a while the obvious should be said, especially in these days of dangerous terrorism, the IDF does everything in its power to keep the highest standards possible.”

He said that in the past weeks, he “visited too many families who were victims of Palestinian terror,” and “the state of Israel has the duty to defend its people and the IDF and its security service is doing its best.”

Mr. Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, President of the State of Israel at HaaretzQ Conference in New York

Rivlin spoke at the HaaretzQ conference at the end of a week-long stay in the United States, which began with a high-profile meeting with President Barack Obama, the first meeting between the two since Rivlin assumed the presidency a year and a half ago. The two projected friendship and warmth in a press appearance after their meeting and Rivlin and his wife were the guests of honor at the White House Hannukah party.

At the Haaretz conference, Rivlin reported that he and Obama had “we discussed Israel’s burden of defense” and “how we make sure Israel remains strong and safe.” While he said that he and the U.S. president may “have differences” as to how Israel can be best kept safe “the president's commitment to a secure Israel is beyond any question.”

Rivlin also had warm words for Haaretz, a newspaper that he said he has read for 70 years, beginning with the children’s version of the paper he read in his youth, despite the fact that his right-wing Likud politics was far from the editorial line of the newspaper, saying that Haaretz “carries great value.”

“All these years I read Haaretz to learn what people who do not share my opinion think,” he says.

“I am often annoyed and angry by what I read and I insist on reading the paper again and again. Haaretz is not only about news. It's a beacon for freedom of expression in Israel.”

“In times of right-wing coalitions and left-wing coalitions, Haaretz always remained in the opposition. It criticized both sides. Being in the opposition is not an easy job. Most of my youth I belonged to the opposition - to the wrong side.”

He declares that “without a live and kicking opposition, our democracy is worth little. I am here today because I believe that the free market of ideas is a holy principle.”